F.R. Duplantier reporting Behind The Headlines

Week of:
April 23, 2000
"I Favor Term Limits, But Not For Me!"

F.R. Duplantier

by: F.R. Duplantier

Republican Congressmen who once supported term limits are now changing their positions --which is another good reason for having them!

As he wriggles and squiggles and squirms,
The Republican chairman confirms
That he relishes clout
And is anxious to flout
His support for strict limits on terms.

"Enthusiasm on Capitol Hill for term limits has waned considerably over the past five years," observes Stephen Moore of the Cato Institute. "After years of waiting in the shadows of power, the old-bull Republicans in the House have finally acquired positions of lofty influence," notes Moore. "They're increasingly bent on holding it."

In a commentary published in a recent issue of the national conservative weekly Human Events, Moore reports that some senior Republicans are "now agitating to overturn the self-imposed term limit on chairmanships. Never mind that term limitation was a major plank of the Republican Contract With America. If the term limits rule can't be changed," he continues, "the old bulls want to be able to rotate from one chairmanship to another."

Moore recalls how "the new House Republican majority [once] boldly declared that 'the long experiment with professional politicians is over, and it failed.' That was then," he emphasizes. "Now, Republican lawmakers are increasingly recycling the left's mantra that term limits would purge Congress of its 'experienced legislators.'"

This hypocritical change of heart comes at a time of "mounting evidence that term limits lead to smaller government and better legislating," Moore remarks. "On a whole range of issues that conservatives care about -- not raising the minimum wage, defunding the National Endowment for the Arts, closing down the Legal Services Corporation, and cutting taxes -- junior [Congressmen] were less likely to vote to tax, spend, regulate, and otherwise stick Washington's nose in our private affairs than were the old bulls."

Moore points to Representative Tom Coburn of Oklahoma as the epitome of the citizen legislator. He notes that Coburn "limited himself to three terms in Congress and has made the most of his six-year tenure. Time and again he has singlehandedly foiled the big-spending Republicans and Democrats on the appropriations committee. He has saved taxpayers more than $10 billion through his unrelenting opposition to pork spending."

Moore cites a recent Cato Institute study showing that "longevity in office is very positively associated with a legislator's propensity to tax and spend, if he or she is a Republican. For Democrats," he notes by contrast, "there is very little increased inclination to grow the government as tenure lengthens. Apparently," Moore reasons, "Democrats come to Washington already intent on spending other people's money. For Republicans it's a learned behavior. The implication of this finding for the smaller government agenda is clear," he asserts. "The more Republicans there are in Congress, the stronger the urgency for term limits." Moore concludes that Republicans were right when they said the experiment with professional politicians had failed, and they've proved it themselves.